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Cal Sports Monday Thoughts: Goff, Robertson, Mullins, O'Toole

Quite a few comings and goings for mid-spring, no?

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Goff leaves as a #1, Robertson arrives as a #1

There are two huge pieces of Cal football news this week that aren't really related, but kinda are. You already know about both of them.

The NFL draft started with the selection of Jared Goff, which is what we all assumed would happen since the Rams traded up to the top spot. Meanwhile, Trevor Davis, Kenny Lawler, and Daniel Lasco were also drafted. That foursome might also be joined in the NFL by Stephen Anderson, Bryce Treggs, Stefan McClure, Jalen Jefferson, Darius Powe, and Maurice Harris, who were all signed as undrafted free agents.

Then, with the draft finally complete, Cal received the unexpected (well, by 'experts') news that Demetris Robertson, a five star recruit and the #1 rated athlete in the nation, was signing with the Bears.

First things first: Both pieces of news are Big Deals. The NFL just added another layer of legitimacy to Cal's offensive development, and seeing four players get drafted is another indicator of the continued regrowth in the program generally. I doubt the 'gimmick offense' negative pitch held a ton of weight anyway, but this is proof that you can come to Cal, score a billion points, and still get a more than fair shake with NFL scouts.

And adding Robertson is just further evidence that the Bear Raid is set to keep on humming. With the best offensive line in years, a strong trio of running backs, and a bevy of inexperienced but undeniably talented receivers, I'm guessing the offense doesn't struggle nearly as much as we all expected without Jared Goff.

Buuuuuuuuut.

Cal's four draft picks are all offensive players. Four of their six undrafted free agents are offensive players. Robertson is nominally an athlete and would probably excel on either side of the ball, but by all accounts he'll be a wide receiver. I am tremendously impressed by just about everything the offensive coaching staff has done. Recruiting, skill identification, skill development, scheme . . . name an aspect of coaching, and you can come up with general and specific examples of success. I hate to be Debbie Downer, especially in the middle of a week with almost universal good news, but some of this mojo desperately needs to be transferred to the defensive side of the ball for this program to take the next big step from the middle of the conference standings to competing at the top.

Welcome, Grant Mullins!

If you can have strong feelings for a player you've never watched, then I've got strong feelings about Cal's signing of Grant Mullins as a grad transfer from Columbia. While many had hoped Cal would sign a decent back-up for Ivan (WHO IS COMING BACK TO CAL EVEN THOUGH HE COULD'VE MADE A FEW COOL MILLIONS), I was hoping for Cal to find another guard first. Why? Cal has Sam, Jordan and Jabari to play the 1, 2, & 3. But Cal also has roughly 30 minutes to fill behind each position. Those 30 minutes are probably more important than the 5-10 minutes of rest Ivan will need each night. Mullins has the chops to play point and wing, and that makes him a valuable asset.

And what can Mullins do? Let's look at the stats:

Mullins

I know, small text. I'll try to pull out the important stuff anyway. What stands out?

  • He's a shooter, as easily shown in his percentages from 3 and from the line. Now, expecting him to shoot 44% from 3 next year might be a little over-optimistic, but Mullins isn't far behind Jordan Mathews as a shooter. Considering that JMat was the best 3 point shooter in the Pac-12 next year, that's saying something.
  • He's not just a shooter. In each of his three prior seasons, he's attempted nearly as many 2s as 3s, while making them at a reasonable rate. And his free throw rate suggests that he's getting to the rim a bit. I don't know if he'll be able to translate that aspect of his game against Pac-12 defenders, but I'd bet he has enough of a dribble drive game to at least keep his defender honest.
  • His assist rate has gone up each season while his turnover rate went down. Sometimes it's fair to be skeptical of the point skills of a player described as a combo-guard, but in this particular case I have no qualms.
  • It took an interesting set of circumstances that led to Mullins coming to Cal. First, he had to miss his junior season due to injury (I can't find a source with anything more specific than 'head and neck injuries'), then he came afoul of an Ivy League rule that essentially prevents a 5th year of eligibility, then there actually had to be mutual interest - no small thing for an Ontario native. But Mullins evidently has family in the Bay Area and Cal needed a ready-to-play combo guard.
There are still question marks - defense is an unknown, but based on Columbia's team defense, probably something that will have to be worked on. But when I start thinking about an offense with Ivan Rabb surrounded by three dudes who can shoot 40%+ from three, well I start to get excited . . . particularly when the core of that personnel played top 25 defense last year.

And for those pinning for an Ivan Rabb back-up, you don't need to give up yet. Jordan Cornish's . . . decommitment, I guess?  . . . opens up another scholarship. It's not entirely clear how Cuonzo is planning on using his final spot, but with Rabb back and Mullins in the fold I'm relatively sanguine about it. Cal is already in great shape for next season - it would be great if the scholarship added another piece for 2016, but just as great if the scholarship added a guy who could make a difference in 2017 and beyond.

Welcome Tim O'Toole, to the right side of the Bay

Cal basketball has filled the vacancy on their coaching staff by hiring former Syracuse and Stanford assistant coach Tim O'Toole. If he's a like-for-like replacement for the departed, then you would expect O'Toole to focus on recruiting. But for the life of me I can't find any interesting information about his coaching tenure anywhere. Stanford's recruiting has been steadily solid throughout the Dawkins era, and if O'Toole contributed to that then this is probably a solid hire. Certainly with Cal's new academic recruiting restrictions, hiring somebody with experience using Stanford's criteria makes sense.

O'Toole has received some notoriety for helping Stanford install certain zone principles O'Toole picked up while working at Syracuse. While interesting, I'd be shocked if Cal moves away from Cuonzo's bread and butter man-to-man in situations other than absolute desperation. And considering how good Cal's defense was last season, any change would be asking for trouble.